In the past, Style.com has taken a relatively idiosyncratic approach to expansion (remember: this is the fashion website that launched an offline counterpart at a time when most people believed print media was on life support), but its latest venture is solidly attuned to the Internet's driving trends.
Style Map, a new channel on the fashion site, launches today with 60 international contributors, ranging from big-name celebrities (Nicole Richie, Courtney Love, Kylie Minogue, Jason Schwartzman) to creative professionals with niche appeal (such as MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch, Stil in Berlin blogger Mary Scherpe and Ukraine's fashion matriarch, Daria Shapovalova).
Contributors will submit dispatches from their work and life, covering a variety of subject areas not limited to fashion. It's a cleverly conceived project, tapping both celebrity headliners and lesser-known, but still influential tastemakers (many are presumably avid social media users and will promote their Style.com content across a variety of networks) to contribute hyper-local content from over 30 cities worldwide.
(And this is just the first phase of the initiative. Later in the fall, Style.com will launch "a community platform" — fashion forums! Sounds familiar…)
During a phone conversation last week, Editor-in-Chief Dirk Standen told me he hopes that the new channel will help grow Style.com's existing international readership: "We already have a global audience, just the fact that fashion is global in nature, we've always had global to a degree, but we felt we could exploit that much more fully."
Asked for a rough sense of the website's geographic breakdown, Standen told me, "U.S. is the biggest market, the U.K. comes second. Followed by France, Italy, Hong Kong. But after the U.S., it's all evenly distributed across those different cities."
But the channel's localized content is designed to appeal not just to local populations, but also to an increasingly cosmopolitan creative class: "There's this new class of creative people that have to travel all over the world for their jobs. People don't necessarily stay in one place. Hedi Slimane is designing Saint Laurent for Paris, but his studio's in L.A. And even if one doesn't travel that much, you know there's all this energy coming from all these different places, and you want to know what's going on in Paris and Beijing — this project really brings all of that together."
Standen notes that, with 60+ contributors posting once a week, Style Map will be "a pretty robust source of content. Of course, depending on what's going on in people's lives, if they're in an interesting place or have an interesting project going on, they may submit more regularly. Courtney Love's on a U.S. tour at the moment, so she'll be posting quite regularly from the road."
Although Style Map's content areas seem broader than the flagship site's fashion-heavy main coverage, Style.com will remain primarily a fashion website: "This is our first move [in the direction of expanding our coverage areas], but fashion will always be our main focus. We're always looking to expand our coverage in related areas, but we're certainly not going to become equally an arts site as we are a fashion site. We're focused on fashion."